Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Audio Trends To Watch At CES


Audio suppliers are headed toward
International CES buoyed by 2010 dollar growth in
key industry segments – from components to iPoddocking
speaker systems — and the companies will be
armed with new products to leverage 2011’s expected
slow-but-steady economic expansion.

At the show, dealers will find a growing
selection of networked audio components
and home theater in a box (HTiB) systems
that stream content from a networked PC,
more HTiBs equipped with 3D Blu-ray players
and 3D-capable HDMI 1.4a inputs, and an expanded
selection of streaming services available through

In other home theater audio solutions, dealers will
find a greater selection of active soundbars, thanks to
companies entering the market or expanding their selections.

New products that distribute audio wirelessly
throughout the house will also appear, and iPad-docking
speaker systems will also proliferate.

In component audio, sales have been aided and abetted
in part by the growth of ever-thinner TVs, said Yamaha
Electronics president Tom Sumner. “Audio has become a
must to purchase with new TVs just to hear a newscast,
let alone enjoy a music or sporting event,” he said.

Another factor, Sumner said, is pent-up demand caused by consumers having updated their TV, Blu-ray
player or set-top box, only to find their existing A/V receiver
“doesn’t have the connections and features they need
for their new system,” Sumner said. (See p. 8 for more
comments from Sumner and other audio-industry executives
on the state of the component market.)

For her part, Altec Lansing president Vicki Marion forecast
that 2010’s docking-speaker sales would end “with
mid-single-digit gains in unit sales and low positive revenue
based on modest ASP declines.” Next year will be
even better as the economy continues to recover, demand
rises for iPad-docking speaker systems, and the number
of multi-iPod households continues to rise, she and other
suppliers said.

Here’s what to look for in key audio categories at CES:

Electronics components:

Audio electronics from
the low to high end will emphasize connectivity to iPods
and iPhones, networked PCs and Internet radio, with networked
A/V receivers coming down in price to an expected
suggested $349 from about $500 to stream music
from the Internet and from a networked PC.

Dealers will also find at least two two-channel receivers
with ability to convert CDs, vinyl records, and cassettes to
compressed MP3 and WMA formats. At least one component-
audio supplier will launch a stereo receiver with
bundled tethered iPod/iPhone dock to join similar products
recently shipped by other suppliers. Those products
include a Rotel stereo receiver with iPod /iPhone USB
connection, Internet radio, and ability to stream music
from a networked PC. For its part, Yamaha recently
shipped three stereo receivers and an integrated amp at
a suggested $329 to $549 with optional wired and wireless
iPod/iPhone docks.

A/V receivers with HDMI inputs compatible with the
Blu-ray 3D format and broadcast 3D formats will continue
to be available at entry-level price points, having started at
$229 in a Pioneer model in 2010.

For its part, Denon will demonstrate its new $599-suggested
N7 networked CD-receiver and a $1,999 AVR-
4311CI AV receiver with Apple AirPlay functionality, enabling
them to stream music, album art and photos from
a networked computer’s iTunes application and from
Apple’s iPod Touches, iPads and iPhones via a home’s
Wi-Fi network. The AirPlay firmware upgrades for these
products and other AVRs N7 and became available in


Multiple companies will display their highest
priced in-room speakers to date, and others will bring
technology from their flagship lines to lower priced lines.

Wisdom said it will roll out its highest end in-room
speaker series to date with the launch of two Wisdom
Series line-source planar-magnetic tower speakers at
$30,000 and $40,000 each.

Polk will show its new flagship series of in-room speakers,
the LSi M, which replaces its 10-year-old flagship LSi
series with a ground-up redesign to step up performance
and price points. The series will top out with a four-way
floorstanding tower at a tentative $4,000/pair, up from the
current LSI series’ current top-end $2,500/pair.

Also at the high end, one company will demonstrate
new two-way active DSP speakers, and another will bring
flagship technologies to a new series priced from a suggested
$1,500 to $4,500/pair for left-right speakers.

Also at the show, dealers will find at least one more
supplier, Martin Logan, launching in-wall and in-ceiling
speakers described as “virtually bezel-less.” Another
company will launch its most expensive custom speaker
to date to match the performance of its flagship in-room

Internet radio:

Multiple companies will turn up at the
show with new tabletop Internet radios, including iPod/
iPhone-docking models and AC/DC models. At least one
new model will sync with like models around the house to
play the same Internet radio stream.